The idea of establishing a Department of Lithuanian Language at the University of Vilnius was proposed in 1822.
The project for the establishment of such department was submitted to the University authorities by an adjunct professor of the University K. Kontrimas; however, his idea was not implemented.
The Department of the Lithuanian Language was established at the University only in autumn 1940, when Vilnius and Vilnius District had already been returned to Lithuania and the Faculty of History and Philology was relocated from Kaunas to Vilnius and two separate departments were created instead of one Department of Lithuanian Language and Literature: the Department of Lithuanian Language and the Department of Lithuanian Literature. At the time Lithuanian language courses at the faculty were delivered by professors P. Skardžius, A. Salys, J. Otrembskis and others. During the Second World War, when the German authorities closed Vilnius University in 1943, the Department’s work was suspended.
After the war, the Department of Lithuanian Language resumed its activities, along with the restoration of the University as a whole. Initially, there was one Department of the Lithuanian Language and Literature. Between 1944 and 1946, the following language courses were taught in the Department: Standard Lithuanian (Prof. J. Balčikonis), Contrastive Grammar of Lithuanian and Latvian, Prussian (Prof. J. Otrembskis), History of the Lithuanian Language (Assoc. Prof. J. Kruopas), Lithuanian Dialectology, Historical Grammar (senior lect. J. Senkus), Polish, and Elementary Course of Lithuanian (E. Samaniūtė). There was a lack of professors and a low number of students. All specialists of Lithuanian studies – professors and students – were regularly inspected and persecuted by Soviet ideologists. J. Kruopas (the head of the Department from 1950 to 1951), who was able to deliver theoretical lectures, and J. Senkus were expelled from the Department; attempts were made to dispose of Prof. J. Balčikonis, who was appointed the Head of the Department after J. Kruopas. However, the specialists of Lithuanian studies survived and continued their work in a quiet and persistent manner. After the establishment of separate departments of Lithuanian Literature and Lithuanian Language, new professors were invited. J. Dovydaitis, J. Kabelka, E. Orvydienė, J. Palionis, K. Ulvydas, Z. Zinkevičius, J. Žukauskaitė and others joined the Department of Lithuanian Language.
Postgraduate studies at the Department were launched in 1948. The first postgraduate student was J. Palionis. Later, V. Grinaveckis, A. Laigonaitė, J. Kazlauskas, J. Pikčilingis, and V. Urbutis entered and completed the postgraduate studies. Since 1950, the Department started a more intense research activity and publication of scientific books and textbooks. The first thesis of the candidate in Philology was defended in 1952 by assoc. prof. J. Kruopas, followed by other members of the Department: J. Palionis (1953 m.), Z. Zinkevičius (1955 m.), A. Laigonaitė, J. Pikčilingis, V. Urbutis (1956 m.), J. Kazlauskas (1958 m.). Most of the theses were defended in the field of historical linguistics. In the sixties, a new generation of linguists (A. Girdenis, E. Jakaitienė, A. Paulauskienė, A. Pupkis and others) started working in the Department; the number of postgraduate students increased: three to four prospective researchers were admitted several years in a row who still work productively at various universities of Lithuania. At that time, researchers focused more on the issues of synchronic language analysis, wrote scientific papers based on the latest structural research methods applied to the language system, and continued fruitful research on dialects and language history. The Department’s activities gained momentum. The heads of the Department during that period were J. Palionis (1953–1959), J. Pikčilingis (1959–1968), and V. Mažiulis (1968–1973).
Doctoral dissertations in the field of Philology (now equivalent to a habilitated doctorate) have been defended in the Department since 1967. In 1967, doctoral dissertations were defended by three linguists, namely, J. Palionis, J. Kazlauskas ir Z. Zinkevičius, one year later by V. Mažiulis, and in 1971 by V. Urbutis. Later, doctoral dissertations were defended by A. Paulauskienė (1981), A. Girdenis (1983), A. Piročkinas (1987), E. Jakaitienė (1988), and V. Labutis (1994). Several members of the Department gained Lithuanian state awards for their successful scientific work, namely, Zinkevičius (in 1968 for the publication ‘Lietuvių dialektologija’ (Lithuanian Dialectology) and in 1995 for the fundamental work ‘Lietuvių kalbos istorija’ (History of the Lithuanian Language), J. Kazlauskas (in 1971 for the book ‘Lietuvių kalbos istorinė gramatika’ (Lithuanian Historical Grammar), after his death), A. Piročkinas (in 1979 for the books ‘Prie bendrinės kalbos ištakų’ (The Origins of the Standard Language), ‘J. Jablonskis – bendrinės kalbos puoselėtojas’ (J. Jablonskis – the Custodian of the Standard Language), A. Girdenis (in 1980, in co-authorship, for Lithuanian language textbooks for schools), and A. Paulauskienė (in 1997 for the research on Lithuanian language morphology).
In 1973, the Department of Lithuanian Language, which became larger and stronger, was divided into two: the Department of Lithuanian Language and the Department of Baltic Philology. In 1988, the work of these departments became more specialized: disciplines related to the modern language have been taught in the Department of Lithuanian Language, while courses related to historical linguistics have been delivered by the Department of Baltic Philology. In 1990, the Department of Lithuanian Language was restructured again: a new Department of Lithuanian Practical Language (later renamed into the Department of Lithuanian Studies) was established to facilitate the teaching of Lithuanian as a non-native language.
From 1973 to 1988 the Department was headed by Prof. Zigmas Zinkevičius, from 1988 to 1991 and from 1994 to 1996 – by Prof. Evalda Marija Jakaitienė, from 1991 to 1993 – by Prof. Aldona Paulauskienė, from 1996 to autumn 2006 – by Prof. Dr. Regina Koženiauskienė, from March 2006 to 2007 – by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Antanas Smetona, who subsequently became a Dean, from autumn 2007 to autumn 2009 – by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Artūras Judžentis, from autumn 2009 to autumn 2012 – by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nijolė Linkevičienė, from 2012 to 2017 – by Prof. Vytautas Kardelis, and since 1 September 2018, the Department has been headed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vilma Zubaitienė.
The 80th anniversary of the Department of Lithuanian Language will be celebrated at the Faculty of Philology, Vilnius University, on 12-13 November 2020!
A scientific seminar on “Synchronic and Diachronic Studies of the Lithuanian Language” is to be held on 12 November, whereas an international scientific conference on “Lithuanian Language in Lithuania and the World” is scheduled for 13 November.
We are pleased to invite you to participate! For more information on the Department of Lithuanian Language see https://www.flf.vu.lt/institutai/tki/struktura/lkk